Today We Pray
As we sit here on the porch of our complex at Dhour Choueir Evangelical Center in the mountains of Lebanon, adequate words evade the emotions and passion that my heart experienced today. My prayer is that they are not my words but His words.
This morning our team worshiped with our brothers and sisters at the Near East School of Theology in Beirut, Lebanon, with the Ras Beirut Presbyterian Church. Our gathering was a multinational representation of Presbyterians: Brazilians, Syrians, Lebanese… the list goes on. This day was a year and a half in the making for me and to say my heart was overwhelmed is an understatement. With God’s strength I did not crumple into a crying heap of humanity but inwardly I was overcome with joy, thankfulness and awe at the privilege to be present with these precious souls. Nancy Fox, one of our team members and an ordained pastor serving in Washington D.C., delivered our sermon from Matthew 16: 3-23 where Jesus states “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build MY church , and the forces of Hades will not overpower it.” The emphasis is MY church. Not Peter’s church, not our church, but Christ’s church. And there we were today – a part of Christ’s church. The body of Christ’s church – from every nook and cranny of this globe, many ethnicities, backgrounds and fallen natures. No matter from whence we came – we came; the fallen, the broken to the feet of Jesus. We came repentant and believing upon the saving grace of “the Messiah, the son of the living God.” How blessed we were to worship our Lord together. To feel His presence and loving embrace in our midst.
I would be remiss if I did not mention our field trip to the Beirut Museum. For me, it was a treat beyond treats to see the antiquities of this region. Marble statues, altars, sarcophagi, mosaics, intricate jewelry, glass (how did that survive?), pottery and even little toy statues (I’m sure it is called something else but that’s my description).
Our journey up the mountain ended at Dhour Choueir Evangelical Conference Center, a beautiful, peaceful place of rest, renewal and the building of new relationships.
As it so happened Abu Saab was on the campus. He is the father of a young seminary student named Nour who is currently studying at the Near East School of Theology and is a friend of Marilyn and Julie and Jack and Helen Baca who met her in April. Juli and Susan are with us from the Bacas’ church in Rancho Sante Fe. The meeting was sweet and tear-filled as Abu Saab is from Bloudan in Syria. He is an agricultural engineer but due to the circumstances of his area has no access to his farmland so has had to relocate to Lebanon to find work, thus being separated from his family. This was a great witness to behold.
As with women, we settled into our accommodations by picking our beds, flinging open our suitcases all the while laughing, talking and situating our technical devices. All of a sudden we heard Marilyn exclaim that Assis Samuel Hanna, retired pastor of Homs, was in the building. As it so happened, Assis (Arabic for “Reverend”), his wife Rasha and daughter May were here.
Over dinner we heard a portion of his story while he was pastor in Homs. A hard story of living under dire circumstances, threat to life, enduring the unspeakable but bearing to witness great faith despite what assaulted eyes and ears. To hear his words and absorb his hurts helped us to carry a small part of the burden he bears.
Today – today was my turn to write. Today was my day to cry (many times), to laugh, to pray fervently yet again. Today, more today than yesterday and today less than tomorrow.
This day we pray as for sisters transversing dangerous territory to come to be with us. Today we pray that tomorrow we may have the glorious privilege of being His hands and feet. Today I pray for tomorrow that my arms that have ached for a year and a half to embrace my sisters will be satisfied.
Nice and tidy.